Over the years, I have heard many arguments for keeping the name “Baptist” in church names. Some have gone so far as to say that anyone who wanted to remove the word “Baptist” from their church name was probably not …even saved. Some claim it makes no difference and others claim that it is an identity necessity.
I disagree with all three and will attempt to give my reasons in the following short essay.
To understand my reasoning, we must determine exactly what makes a Baptist.
1. It is not someone who attends a Baptist church. Regular attendance at a Baptist church does not make one a Baptist any more than regular attendance at a restaurant would make someone a cook.
2. Being baptized does not make someone a Baptist. The simple act of
sprinkling, pouring or immersing someone in water does not make them a Baptist.
3. Calling themselves a Baptist does not make it so. I can call myself a Dr. but
that is not going to help me do brain surgery.
So what then, is a Baptist?
First and foremost, it is someone who has been converted to Christianity. Today within the church body, there are many who attend church regularly and even teach and hold office, but have never made a personal commitment to Christ. It is not within the realm of this essay to lay out all doctrines for what makes on a Christian but rather what makes Baptists different from the rest of Christianity. At the most basic level, it is someone who believes in the following:
- Biblical authority
- Autonomy of the local church
- Priesthood of the believer
- Two offices: Pastor and Deacon
- Individual soul liberty
- Saved church membership
- Two Ordinances: Baptism and Lords supper
- Separation of Church and State
I will not take time here to explain each since it is not pertinent to the discussion of church naming. Suffice it to say that the above is pretty much the basic requirement for a body of believers to call themselves Baptists.
So then, why should or should not such a body name their church “Baptist?”
To begin, we need to understand the purpose of the church. The sole purpose of the church is to bring sinners to Christ. With this in mind, I would posit that the term “Baptist” has a bad connotation to most unsaved peoples. Fundamentalist zealots, (churches such as the Westboro Baptist Church and some Baptist TV preachers) have left a bad taste in the mouths of many. Additionally, since all Baptist churches are autonomous, their is no uniformity in practice. Some ordain women, some don’t, some allow teachers or officers who hold to non-Baptist beliefs, some are KJV only, others NIV and others where a mix of translations/versions/paraphrases are used. All in all, there are over 100 different sects of Christianity calling themselves “Baptist.” And naturally, the unsaved choose the worst practices of each to brand all.
So, with that in mind, I feel that if it were my decision, I would name my church anything but ‘Baptist.’ My preference would be follow the New Testament naming convention; ie; “The church at ‘location.’” Church beliefs would be prominently posted on the website, available on flyers and brochures and possibly even a small “a baptistic assembly” blurb on the sign. Our beliefs, faith and practice would describe us rather than a name.
I would be very interested in your thoughts. Use the comments box below.